The managing director of Flight Centre, Graham Turner, has co-written a column for The Australian denouncing the effectiveness of lockdowns in tackling COVID.
“Despite their popularity, there appears to be growing scepticism about the benefits of lockdowns and their significant costs,” wrote Turner, along with Luxury Escapes CEO Adam Schwab. “These include devastating educational impacts, widespread mental health issues, increased domestic violence, loss of basic freedoms and damaged relationships.
It comes as NSW is currently enduring its 10th week of lockdown, with Victoria in its sixth lockdown of the entire pandemic.
“Lockdowns as an idea originated in the veterinary and livestock industry, which used strict interventions to curb outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease in Britain in 2001,” wrote the pair. “Strategies used by the livestock sector are far stricter than even the harshest regime would adopt for humans. Infected herds are shot, burned and buried, even if only a single animal is ill. Ungulates, farmed and wild, that come into contact on a farm earn the same fate.
“Even humans who come into contact face far more severe restrictions in movement than our harshest lockdowns. This is why human lockdowns don’t appear to be overly effective – in Western countries they are simply not strict or harsh enough.”
The bosses said that Australia and New Zealand are far behind on the concept of lessening lockdowns amid vaccination increases, “while most of the world has come to its senses”.
Despite being a smaller nation, Australia has boosted its vaccination rates in a bid to end the lockdown in the last few weeks, now seeing 27.8 per cent of the population double-jabbed.
“The obvious alternative to hard lockdown is an effective vaccine, which we, fortunately, have,” the pair wrote.
“But even without the panacea of 100 per cent vaccination, social distancing, hygiene, effective contact tracing and isolation, and rapid self-testing and protection of the vulnerable work to suppress excessive fatalities.”
They added that locking down 90 per cent of the population to “possibly save some lives” has further costs, especially in light of Australia’s access to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Turner and Schwab compared Australia to Denmark, which removed all COVID-19 restrictions last week despite reporting around 1,000 daily infections, similar to NSW.
“We predict wide, hard lockdowns soon will become a thing of the past in Western nations,” they said.
“Even liberal democracies such as Denmark and Germany, have accepted this even in the face of the rising Delta infections and deaths in the unvaccinated.”
Only days ago, Fight Centre released its 2021 June fiscal year financial results, reporting a loss of $433 million.
While 35 per cent smaller than last year, the second half of the year saw improvements mostly from its international markets as border closures began lifting and restrictions eased.
Turner expects a recovery in Australia will ultimately bring Flight Centre back into profitability, but it relies heavily on politicians becoming flexible when the vaccination target is reached.
Schwab also saw revenue take a hit during the worst of the pandemic, but even when the company climbed back to near profitability in May, lockdowns stunted any more growth.
While Luxury Escapes’ Australian market plummeted, its overseas clients – especially in the US – kept the company afloat during the recent lockdowns.
Turner and Schwab said the lockdowns have continued to cause “widespread job and economic losses”, such as their own.
“We will not be able to eliminate this virus for years,” they added. “There needs to be a focus on vaccinating all those vulnerable or elderly people who want to be protected. If these people are fully vaccinated then the risk of death from Covid-19 is low.”